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Let’s Move Cities, Towns and Counties

July 18, 2012
Philadelphia, PA

It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today to announce the next chapter of Let’s Move Cities, Towns and Counties. Since 2010, local elected officials from communities across America have stepped forward to address the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic by signing up for Let’s Move Cities, Towns, and Counties.

All of these Mayors, the National League of Cities, business partners, and community leaders are with us today because they know building healthy communities is the right thing to do.  And it’s also the smart thing to do.

But our efforts to improve children’s health need work. Today we’re not only seeing high rates of obesity.  We’re also seeing higher rates of chronic illness, from asthma to heart disease to Type 2 diabetes, a disease we stopped calling adult-onset diabetes because so many kids are getting it. And we know that health problems that start young can last a lifetime.

That’s why scaling up our action is so important.  Because when we talk about our children’s future, we’re also talking about our nation’s future.  Childhood obesity is a national problem.  But it isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved only at the national level.

We have to make an impact, city by city, town by town, county by county.  And all of you here today have stepped up to be a part of that. 

But, this is just the start. There are also mayors and local elected officials across the country who are looking for concrete steps to accelerate momentum and improve health in their cities and towns.

This next chapter of Let’s Move Cities, Towns, and Counties is built around five clear and easy goals to help them do just that. To meet these goals, communities will have a great partner in the National League of Cities, which is joining Let’s Move to give local elected officials the technical assistance and information they need to take action right away. And these steps not only align with the pillars of Let’s Move – they’re also based on successful programs already taking place in communities around the country. 

First, we’re calling on local elected officials to encourage healthy eating and physical activity among our youngest children. That means creating a healthy environment in our local child care, Head Start and early learning programs to help kids learn healthy behaviors that last a lifetime.

Second, we’re asking local governments to increase the visibility of “My Plate”, a powerful visual reminder to make healthy food choices when it’s time to build a meal.  And My Plate is easy for anyone to understand, with simple guidelines like making half your plate fruits and vegetables and choosing more whole grains.

Third, we’re working with Mayors, schools, and parents to partner and increase their children’s participation in national school breakfast and lunch programs – ensuring students get two healthy meals every school day. Our kids spend half of their time in school, we owe it to them to make sure they’re eating healthy there.

Fourth, elected officials can increase healthy options by working with food vendors in public venues to follow the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That means using healthy food practices that are good for our health and give people the opportunity to make healthy food choices.

And fifth and finally, local governments and their partners can work together to increase safe, accessible places to play and be physically active around their cities and towns. 

Many of the nation’s children don’t live within walking distance of a park or recreation center. Today, Kaboom is giving Philadelphia a head start on solving that problem by donating a playground. But it’s not just any playground. It’s the Imagination Playground in a Box that you can see just over here to my right. The moveable parts come in a box, and kids can assemble them in any setting – indoors or outdoors – to create a safe place to play.  These playspaces make an immediate impact in a neighborhood.

Finding flexible and creative ways to get kids playing and physically active is vital for communities around the country.  And today we have another partnership to announce that will be doing just that. The Partnership for a Healthier America, along with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is announcing grants for 10 cities and towns across the country to periodically close down streets to create healthy, safe playspaces.

These are the kind of actions we want to see around the country to help kids get active and get healthy.

And thanks to the First Lady and all of the leaders here today we’re not just seeing more activity, but also better results.  She’s helping schools start gardens.  And she’s bringing together kids and their favorite athletes to learn about physical activity and healthy eating. But she can’t do it all herself. We all need to work together to build healthy communities for a healthy future.

Thank you.